… to the Jews a stumbling block [Gr: skandalon, a stone of stumbling or offense] and to the Greeks [Gentiles] foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the things of the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base [lowly or insignificant] things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’” (1 Corinthians 1:23-31, emphasis mine)
This Scripture—or rather, the last couple of verses of it—has for a long time been my banner for writing faith-based fantasy. I’m intrigued with the idea that God could use the concept of things that don’t even exist to “bring to nothing” things that do exist. Indeed, I think the whole passage speaks to Christian writers of fiction in general, but the application is especially relevant to those of us who read and write speculative fiction.
Becky mentioned in the comments following her Speculative Faith post on Monday a weariness with the complaint about Christian fiction—including SF/F—being “too preachy.” I can sympathize with that weariness, given that Christians ARE given the directive to “go and make followers of all the nations.” Not only that, but those with a growing, vital relationship with the Living Creator tend to desire to share that with others. So unless we’re trying very hard to prevent it, I think something of that leaks into our stories.
Come to think of it, it’s almost like spiritual birth control. We interact with the world, we sow the seed of the Good News of redemption (or water what others have sown, as our calling might be), and someone, somewhere reaps the harvest. But wait! someone cries. Doesn’t the world have enough Christians? Aren’t we being presumptuous in wanting to make followers of ALL the nations? I mean, we can’t shove Christ down their throats and force conversions as in the days of Constantine.
I’ve written elsewhere about the problem of “christianese”—how the same terms and phrases used over and over breeds immunity to the truth behind the words, in both believers and nonbelievers. Fiction has the unique ability to communicate that truth “under the radar”—in ways that the reader isn’t suspecting.
I would contend that our job with spec fiction is all the harder because of how discerning (picky, sharp-minded, take your pick) the average reader of SF/F is. The genre as a whole is openly hostile to Christianity, but sympathetic to everything else. I think we have a special mission to NOT be “in your face” or obvious.
So how to preach without being preachy?
I think that certain people would like us to think the genre as a whole is openly and necessarily hostile to Christianity. Usually the same people who say that ‘science’ is hostile to Christianity.
I think we shouldn’t buy into that. Just as many great scientists were and are Christians, so Christians have found and can find a home in SF. Not that there isn’t tension at times, or that there aren’t hostile factions within those worlds.
PS: In regards to your final question, I think something could be learned from great preachers. “Preachy” has negative connotations now, as does “sermonizng,” but if you’ve ever heard a skilled preacher you know how powerful and yet un-preachy they can be in proclaiming the Word.
Shannon McNear says
Good points, Elliot, about “hostility.” And yes about the power in good preaching … that’s precisely the reason we should not only study to become skilled writers, but pray fervently for the anointing to be on our writing. I believe the two have to go together if we hope to be something more than “the wisdom of man.”
James Moffitt says
I have always said “We are real people in a real world with real world problems. The answer to those problems is Jesus.” I wonder if that sounds preachy. LOL… Anyway, my point is this, that I agree with your statement that we should not be preachy TO people either in verbal conversations nor in our writing. My hope and prayer is that people see Jesus in ME because of how I live my life and react to the world and those circumstances that I experience. I do not want people to see RELIGION or religiosity but rather someone who is salt in the earth and light to the world. That is why it is so important that we live out our faith on a daily basis for everyone to see. I know that is easier said than done. I have to admit that while I do not feel that I am anywhere near qualified to write something other than maybe short stories or in my blog you did peak my interest with regards to the following statement
Fiction has the unique ability to communicate that truth “under the radar”—in ways that the reader isn’t suspecting.
Does that tie in with being real and sharing your life with others and how you respond and if so how do you translate that into SF/F?
Shannon McNear says
James, I think it does tie in … and how that translates to sf/f? That would be a whole ‘nother post.
Stay tuned … 😉